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PM urges ‘democracies’ to learn from horrors Cambodia faced

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Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks during the 2nd Asia-Pacific Summit at the Peace Palace on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

PM urges ‘democracies’ to learn from horrors Cambodia faced

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday chided countries that he said declared themselves a democracy while supporting a military coup that eventually gave birth to the Khmer Rouge regime.

Speaking during the 2nd Asia-Pacific Summit at the Peace Palace, Hun Sen said without naming those countries that Cambodia had fallen victim to their foreign policy when they imposed sanctions on the government while granting the Khmer Rouge full rights and a seat at the UN from 1979 to 1991.

He said their decision gave birth to the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror that killed more than a million innocent people.

Hun Sen said those countries needed to reflect on their attitude to avoid victimising other countries as they did Cambodia.

He expressed hope that Cambodia’s experience as a victim of those countries’ foreign policies will serve as a lesson for others to learn.

“This is an experience, not only for Cambodia but also for the whole world to learn from. It is a lesson to learn in regards to relations with other countries, how you behave towards other countries,” he said.

Hosted by Cambodia and presided over by Hun Sen, the summit was attended by nearly 1,000 foreign delegates from 48 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, officials said.

Hun Sen also recalled how he rebuilt the country from scratch since 1979 amid economic embargoes and transformed a war-torn nation into one of the fastest-growing economies in the region.

The prime minister stressed that despite the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement and subsequent UN-administered national elections in 1993, Cambodia did not achieve full peace until he introduced his win-win policy which saw the integration of the Khmer Rouge and the eventual end of the bloody civil war in 1998.

“The successful implementation of the win-win policy ended chronic wars in Cambodia and brought about natural unity and complete territorial integrity in late 1998.

“It was the peace and national unification achieved by Cambodia itself without bloodshed, use of weapons or explosives and without orders or support from outsiders,” he said.

Held from November 18- 21 and jointly organised by the Cambodian government and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), the summit highlighted the positive results of cooperation between various governments and civil society organisations in building peace and reconciliation to bring about development and prosperity.

UPF founder Hak Ja Han Moon was also present at the summit to highlight the important role of Christianity in building peace.

The summit also saw representatives from seven governments – the Philippines, Myanmar, Republic of Palau, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and East Timor – giving speeches concerning past and ongoing conflicts in their countries, and their experiences in restoring peace.

Myanmar Vice-President U Henry Van Thio stressed that sustainable development cannot be achieved without peace. To that end, he said the Myanmar government had been striving to end conflicts with armed ethnic minority groups.

“Myanmar is a nation of multi-religion and ethnic minorities with a long history [of armed conflicts]. The current government is the one that is responsible for building peace and bringing about national conciliation.

“The government’s priority is to strengthen peace and to end conflicts with armed ethnic groups,” he said.

Ek Tha, the deputy head of the Government Spokesperson Unit and spokesman for the summit, said the meeting will make Cambodia’s image in the region and the world all the more recognisable.

“Cambodia is a model country under the leadership of Samdech [Hun Sen]. Over the last 20 years, the Cambodian economy had remained strong, with an annual growth of more than seven per cent.

“All international guest speakers from both executive and legislative bodies spoke highly of Cambodia and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership,” he said.

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